How does education for women affect poverty? It can help finish it I India CSR

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Highly educated women tend to be healthier and participate more in the formal labor market.


By Anoushka Adya

Access to education should not be determined by a child’s gender, yet 130 million girls worldwide are not in school and 15 million primary school-age girls will never enter a classroom.

Ensuring that girls enter and stay in the classroom is vital in the fight against large-scale poverty in India, but there are some key grassroots barriers that prevent large-scale education for girls. These issues may seem insignificant to the urban educated class, but they are the key factors that put the majority of girls far behind when it comes to getting the education they deserve and becoming economically independent.

Girls’ lack of access to education stems from community and family expectations, attitudes and prejudices, social traditions, religious and cultural beliefs, all of which limit girls’ educational opportunities. Economics plays a key role when it comes to dealing with direct costs such as college tuition, textbook costs, uniforms, transportation, and other expenses. Wherever these costs exceed the family income, especially in large families, girls are the first to be denied schooling.

In rural India, poverty is the most important factor limiting women’s education as the majority of people are poor and cannot afford to educate their children and when faced with a choice they prefer son over son the daughter. The idea behind this is that the girl will marry at some point and leave the house and that the son will take responsibility in old age.


Unfortunately, this is proving to be a vicious cycle as young girls’ lack of education perpetuates poverty. If the majority of young girls were educated and enrolled in the country’s economy, India would be much better equipped to tackle poverty quickly.

Girls’ education gives them the freedom to make choices to improve their lives, which has profound social implications. Enabling girls to have access to schooling is a central part of eradicating poverty in India and empowering these girls financially, which in turn makes them less vulnerable to violence and gives them the right to free choice and access to the basic human rights they enjoy unfortunately do not have unaware if they are not educated.

Highly educated women tend to be healthier and participate more in the formal labor market.

So what actions need to be taken to break down the complex grassroots barriers that keep girls from going to school and receiving a meaningful education?

Barriers to girls’ education in India

(A) Child Marriage

A key barrier to girls’ participation in school life in India is child marriage. Every year 15 million girls under the age of 18 are married.

The reasons for child marriage and girls’ lack of education are complex and interrelated, and the main reason could be the age-old customs and traditions passed down like ‘Gauna’. Parents, especially in Tier 2, Tier 3 cities and rural areas, want their girls to marry young so they can meet their commitments. They firmly believe that if they hesitate, they may not be able to find a suitable groom for their daughter. This stems from the basic assumption that a girl’s education is not as valuable as a boy’s, and that educated girls often become a liability by becoming ‘inflexible’ and ‘unmarriageable’. If we work to change these patriarchal local values, we won’t see a shift in results any time soon.

In fact, in most cases of child marriage, girls do not even know who they are marrying or the responsibilities they are being given at such a young age.

While child marriage has cultural roots, poverty also plays a major role. Parents who can afford it wouldn’t necessarily discourage their children from going to school, but if they can’t afford it then they end up making a choice and feeling that marriage is the best option within the limited possibilities is. And so the cycle unfortunately continues without the chain breaking.

Therefore, the only way to end poverty and the threat of unfair decisions is to educate a generation of young girls and break the vicious cycle. It is about tackling the challenge from the ground up and creating lasting change.

(B) Menstrual health management

The onset of menstruation is another important pressure point for girls’ schooling in India. A lack of single-sex bathrooms, no access to toiletries, teasing from classmates, unsupportive teachers – all of these can hamper a young girl’s ability to attend school in India. Usually girls drop out of school when they start menstruating out of shame, fear and embarrassment. They don’t feel comfortable talking about it because it’s taboo in India’s smaller communities.

Until this factor is addressed, young girls will continue to drop out of school. Girls need to be taught and educated how to manage their time at school “in a pleasant, safe and dignified manner.” We must work to replace stigma, silence and shame with information, dignity and open conversation.

(C) Protect girls in school

Gender-based violence in and around school is a reality in India and is one of the main reasons why parents are reluctant to send their girls to school and often abandon their education when they grow up.

Girls are at the heart of India’s poverty story and there must be a solution to provide young girls with secure education at all levels to break the cycle of poverty once and for all.

The lack of educational institutions near the villages makes it difficult for girls living in rural areas to travel long distances. In particular, the physical integrity of the girls is an important concern.

(D) Inherent gender bias

An inherent gender bias in rural society against women’s education is believed to be the main reason why women are not enrolled in schools.

(E) Spending too much for the majority

School fees, costs for textbooks, uniforms, transportation and other expenses are sometimes too great for parents to handle, as are the overheads of their child’s education. In such cases, they often choose to only allow their young ones to have an education.

(F) Usefulness in household chores

A major factor in the illiteracy of rural girls, or the limitation of their literacy, is their usefulness in performing household chores and farming tasks. Cleaning the house, preparing the food, taking care of the siblings, the elderly and the sick, grazing the cattle and gathering firewood are some of the most important tasks they have to fulfill. There is also concern that education may create resistance to doing chores.

Conclusion

Girls’ education is the most important milestone for women’s empowerment because it empowers them to respond to the challenges, to face their traditional roles and to transform their lives. Girls’ education is the most effective tool to change their status not only within the family but also in society.

Educated women are more likely to be employed and financially independent, and are also more likely to devote more income to family welfare, lifting many families out of poverty.

Schooling allows a girl to efficiently engage in both market-oriented and household activities. These affect the well-being of their families and increase their potential contribution to the development of the household and the local and regional economy.

Education for girls is therefore the key to fighting poverty in India.

The author

Anoushka Adya, Founder of Lajja Diaries.

Views are personal.

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